How Covid-19 is keeping patients sleepless and anxious

More and more COVID-19 patients, admitted in hospitals and in quarantine, are complaining of sleeplessness, anxiety and depression, among other symptoms | Image - Eunice Dhivya

It has been a month since 35-year-old Bibin was discharged from the Covid-19 isolation ward of a super-specialty hospital in Thiruvalla, Kerala. Medically, he is normal but he still calls the hospital and reports one grievance – he cannot sleep. According to his duty doctor, Bibin was severely agitated and restless from the day he was admitted. Every day, grabbing both of the doctor’s hands, he would ask – What if I become breathless while sleeping? Shouldn’t I lie awake then?

After discharge, he was required to stay in quarantine at home for another seven days. Those days, he would call the hospital more than twice a day. A month later, his calls are less frequent and his questions have changed. But the fear is still there. Bibin’s family has been advised to get him psychiatric counselling if his anxiety and paranoia persists after three months. Meaning, it will be a very long time till Bibin gets to sleep like a normal person again.

In a clinical profile of psychiatric consultations of in-patients from a Covid Tertiary Centre (June 2020-June 2021), around 118 cases were documented. In a specific analysis of liaison with Category B and Category C patients in Covid wards and ICUs, majority cited anxiety and depressive symptoms “that was overwhelming” and 21 patients with no major disorder were seeking help for illness-related distress.

Withdrawal and isolation

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